Turkey just tried to close down Twitter, China wrestles to close off the Internet for unapproved users, Russia does the same, and Venezuela doesn’t like what it’s hearing and seeing on the Internet. At the United Nations, the International Telecommunication Union voted 85 to 55 to approve a new treaty, to go into effect next year, that would allow governments to close off citizens to the global Internet. And that’s the agency likely to be controlling entrance to the Internet under an Obama administration decision to relinquish control of the Internet in favor of global control.
Until now, the Internet, developed by the U.S. military, has been under the control of the U.S. which guarantees Internet freedom. One critic of the Obama administration move compared it to the U.S. Navy’s giving up policing of the sea lanes. Instead, flow of global information will be subject to the whims of authoritarian governments. Right now, people all over the world have multiple paths to communicate with each other all tied into the Internet: email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, flickr, snap chat, instagram, tumblr, etc.
Here’s the way it works: the U.S. government oversees the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. That entity issues domain names and Web addresses. That is direct control of access to the Internet. Icann is a separate, non-profit agency under contract with the U.S. government and established by the U.S. Its role now, under U.S. supervision, is to provide the broadest access to the greatest number of people globally. This is the world’s most powerful government not only advocating, but promoting free speech and the free flow of ideas. That’s not always popular, but it’s right.
To be certain, the U.S. is not the only user of the Internet nor its biggest user. China is the latter. Nearly every country in the world, if not every, has Internet access. That’s part of the rationale for giving broader control. Some of those countries have also complained that the U.S. spy activities on their governments through our National Security Agency justifies a broader control of the Internet. Read that “restriction.” Not only that, but officials of Icann have shown support for such international control.
What international control will mean besides restrictions, denials and controls of people and entities not politically popular, is also loss of individual anonymity (essential to those critical of their governments) and, of course, a tax on Internet companies such as Google and Facebook. That means fees to users.
We’ve already dropped our space shuttle program and are now dependent upon Russia for transportation to and from the International Space Station. Perhaps we should also share with the world our natural resources such as gas, coal and oil and let the world control their exploration, cost, benefits, and distribution. Google, in 2012, organized an online petition opposing authority of the U.N.’s ITU, declaring that ” a free and open world depends on a free and open web.” It got three million sign-ups.
Interestingly, a former Obama aide, Andrew McLaughlin, proposed abolishing the ITU which he called: “The chosen vehicle for regimes for whom the free and open Internet is seen as an existential threat.” And Congress unanimously opposed any U.N. control over the Internet. They are both right. Apparently, the Obama administration doesn’t agree.